The Nahuel Huapi National Park is dominated by the high mountain chain of the Andes and includes many lakes, rapid rivers, waterfalls, snow-clad peaks, glaciers and extensive forests. The largest national park in the region, it encompasses Lake Nahuel Huapí adjacent to the Chilean border.
Nahuel Huapi National Park is the oldest national park in Argentina, established in 1934. It surrounds Nahuel Huapi Lake in the foothills of the Patagonian Andes. The largest of the national parks in the region, it has an area of 7,050 sq km (2,720 sq mi), or nearly two million acres. Along with four other national parks, it comprises a part of the Andino Norpatagónica Biosphere Reserve.
Located in Río Negro and Neuquén provinces, the park encompasses Lake Nahuel Huapí in the Andes adjacent to the Chilean border. The park is dominated by the high mountain chain of the Andes, many lakes, rapid rivers, waterfalls, snow-clad peaks, glaciers and extensive forests. It is bordered by Chile on its western side.
Originated as a reserve in 1903, with a private donation of 18,500 acres (7,500 ha), it became Argentina’s first national park in 1934 and has an area of 2,927 square miles (7,581 square km). The park has two zones: the park and the natural reserve with development concentrated in the reserve. The largest city and a base for tourism is San Carlos de Bariloche, which is surrounded by the park.
The park and adjacent nature reserve include a region of dense forests, numerous lakes, rapid rivers, waterfalls, and glaciers (including Perito Moreno). Among its peaks are the 11,660-foot (3,554-meter) El Tronador ("The Thunderer") and Mount Catedral, the latter being noted for its skiing. Its landscapes are representative of the north Patagonian Andean Zon and is subdivided into three types: Altoandino, above 1,600 m (5,250 ft) with eternal snows, the Andino-Patagónico (in the lower parts of the mountains) and finally the Patagonian steppe.
Lake Nahuel Huapi is the largest and deepest clear water lake in the lake district of Argentina, with a depth of 425 m (1,394 ft). Located at the foot of the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 767 m (2,516 ft), it measures 544 square kilometers (210 sq mi). The lake extends 100 km (62 mi) across the border with Chile, and includes many fjords as well as the Valdivian temperate rain forest.
The park's ecology consists of Patagonian steppe at lower elevations and Valdivian temperate forests at higher elevations. It is notable for its rich wildlife due to its many biotopes, attributed to the varied altitude and precipitation range. The park has a cold temperate climate. Winters are cold and rainy with frequent snowfalls while summers are dry.
Xerophytic Patagonian flora is dominant in the eastern half of the park while the western half is covered profusely with temperate rain forests. The dominant tree species in the park are the lengas, coihue, and the ñires.
Animals include river otters (Lontra longicaudis), southern Andean huemuls (Hippocamelus bisulcus), pudus (small deer), foxes, cougars, guanacos and maras. Huillin (Lontra provocax), an endangered native otter, has been reported in the park.
Birds reported include Magellanic woodpeckers, green austral parakeets, geese, ducks, swans, blue-eyed cormorants, Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) and green-backed firecrowns (Saphonoides sephaniodes).